Families traditionally eat Christmas dinner at home, but Christmas day restaurant dining rates have increased by 240% in the UK compared with five years ago. This shift in Christmas food trends means restaurants increasingly need to cater for Christmas Day diners.
Kent Frozen Foods (KFF) managing director Chris Beckley says: “Catering to ‘everyone’ is always going to be a challenge; however, organisation is key to meeting the demand this Christmas period. Implementing pre-ordering systems will ensure exact quantities are prepared, as well as minimising any produce waste. Pre-ordering systems will help manage dietary requirements, particularly any allergies, and will eliminate any ‘surprises’ upon ordering. Chefs are fortunate that there is pretty much a vegan alternative to every meal but what they need to consider is that it’s often the additions of sides, starters and desserts that miss the mark – especially at Christmas.”
Here are four Christmas day dining trends influencing the restaurant industry.
Alternatives to turkey/meat-free movement
The need for the restaurant industry to cater to the growing number of vegetarians, flexitarians and vegans has led to the development of a range of meat-free alternatives. This need is no different during the festive period. While turkey is the traditional option for Christmas dinner, turkey-free alternatives like a seitan roast have started to become the meal centrepiece.
The Vegetarian Society cookery school manager Sam Platt says restaurants should avoid relying on classics when it comes to catering for non-meat eaters. She says: “With a recent report suggesting one-third of UK adults had reduced or stopped their meat consumption, it’s important to keep up with trends. Maximising sales over the festive period is a must for caterers.
“By making sure you look after your veggie and vegan customers you’ll be nurturing repeat business for next year. Offering better veggie options will attract more group bookings. It’s common for a group to make sure the veggies and vegans will be well catered for before they book a table. If restaurants don’t improve their offering, they could lose out on not only veggie and vegan customers but their friends, colleagues and families too.”
Vegetarian and dairy-free options are also no longer solely for vegetarians and vegans. As consumers grow more health-conscious, meat-free alternatives provide the ideal opportunity to offer a menu that is appealing to everyone.
Fermentation involves the chemical breakdown of substances by bacteria, yeast and other micro-organisms. It is used to produce food and beverages like cheese, preserved vegetables, yoghurt, beer and wine and is often referred to as having health benefits, particularly in relation to gut health. Gut-friendly food has become a growing trend of its own this year and it is set to continue throughout the Christmas period, not least to settle Christmas digestive problems. Pickled vegetables and cabbage in particular are expected to be prominent this season, from being in canapés to the main meal. Pickles contain vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and gut-friendly probiotic bacteria. Cabbage can be fermented to make sauerkraut, which promotes the growth of beneficial probiotics. However, store-bought pickles are not typically fermented.
The perfect accompaniment to pickles, cheese is a flexible item to include in restaurant menus during the festive season and is often served as part of a cheese board.
Branston Foodservice brand manager Jenny Tran says: “Cheese is always one of the star performers at Christmas, satisfying most festive diners from the meat-eaters to the veggies. It’s also a lunchtime staple, catering for the increasing lunch market for out-of-home operators. Menus that get everyone talking will have a cheeseboard to remember, enhanced with a selection of pickles and chutneys, from caramelised onion to Dorset Ale and apple. Our Annual Cheese Survey revealed that pickle is, in fact, the nation’s first choice to accompany cheese, followed by crackers and then chutney.
“The lunch crowd is also becoming increasingly important at Christmas as time-poor customers look to cram in their socialising at any moment they can spare. There’s no better way to highlight the lunch occasion than with an array of cheeses that embrace the Christmas spirit and all the on-trend flavours, whether it’s part of a three-course meal or tucked in a takeaway wrap.”
Stuffing is a key part of a traditional Christmas dinner, and adding less traditional spices to stuffing, like ginger, has become a modern food trend. Other holiday spices including cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice often feature in deserts like Christmas pudding and mince pies, and are a key ingredient of mulled wine. Beckley says: “Menus should be varied and include a range of festive favourites, as well as some on-trend additions such as spices like ginger which can be used to enhance stuffing balls; Timut pepper to add a hint of grapefruit to desserts; and spiced chai drinks as an alternative to a mulled wine or boozy hot chocolate to really make a meal stand out.”